Priorities in research into encephalitis

Encephalitis is a syndrome about which little is known. It is an inflammation of the brain that comes on suddenly and produces serious neurological disease. It can have a variety of causes tranging from infection to rogue auto-immune responses.

The current questions the Society is aiming to support, encourage, participate in and fund over the next 3 years are:

  • Diagnosis

We know that prompt diagnosis and treatment in all types of encephalitis is critically important, both in saving lives and limiting the brain injury.

Therefore we are keen to support research which makes diagnosis quicker and more accurate.  Even with extensive laboratory testing the number of ‘unknown’ causes of encephalitis remains high at 37% and therefore research that tries to identify these ‘unknowns’ along with new and emerging causes is of interest to us.  In addition we are also interested in supporting research that explores and finds effective ways of communicating diagnostic tools and among diagnosing clinicians and physicians.

  • Treatment

Treatments are limited in infectious types of encephalitis and we are keen to support research that explores new treatments. We are also keen to support research that explores novel immunomodulatory agents in both autoimmune and infectious causes, including but not exclusively the role of steroids for example in infectious encephalitis. We would also be keen to see the establishment of clinical trial networks in encephalitis.

  • Recovery and Rehabilitation

Research into the recovery and rehabilitation of patients who have had encephalitis has been limited and we still know little about patient recovery pathways and which forms of rehabilitation are more effective in this population.  What rehabilitation services are being offered to post-encephalitic patients?  Research that identifies gold standards of care are of interest as well as whether there are optimal levels of management and limitations in terms of rehabilitation among this population.  What are the most effective interventions in maximising people’s quality of life and when should rehabilitation begin?  We would also be interested in research that explored correlations between delays in treatment and outcome/levels of dis/ability.  Research that explores behavioural and social outcomes are of interest in addition to the cognitive and physical.

See The Encephalitis Society Research Strategy for more information.